PURPOSE: The experience of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for parents can be anxiety-provoking, fearful, and distressing. To help parents cope with these overwhelming feelings, a number of interventions, including parent support groups, are typically offered. It is hoped that the provision of these groups and other forms of emotional support lessen the distressing experience for parents and lessen the anxiety of hospital discharge. This study focuses on the emotional reactions during the transition to home from the NICU for parents who participated in one such support group.
METHODS: Parents were interviewed 4 to 6 months after discharge of their baby from hospital.
RESULTS: Themes from these interviews included anxiety and concern about the baby's readiness for discharge, concerns about the risks of further illness and rehospitalization, and whether the parent felt prepared sufficiently to care for his or her baby at home. Recalling their time in the nursery was distressing for parents, but despite this, they identified that positive staff interactions helped them through the hardest times in the NICU.
CONCLUSIONS: The support group was reported to be effective and helpful for parents. Parents often maintained social contact with other parents and recalled advice and supportive information from the group as needed. Participants recommended that the support group continue to assist other parents.
School of Psychology, University of Adelaide, Australia.
Correspondence: Melanie Turner, BAppSci, MBBS, FRANZCP, Discipline of Psychiatry, University of Adelaide, PO Box 203, Highbury SA 5089, Adelaide, Australia (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Parent Accounts of Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) and NICU supports, after hospital discharge.
The authors thank Ms Fiona McDonald, University of Adelaide, for completing the participant interviews, and the parents, staff, and babies of the neonatal intensive care unit for participating in this research. They also thank the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists for the $3900 grant under the Young Investigators Grant Scheme for the first author Dr Melanie Suzanne Turner in 2009.
The authors declare no conflict of interest.